HILO >> Teams fanned out across Hawaii County today to look for any serious damage from Tropical Storm Madeline’s close brush with the island, while Civil Defense officials warned residents to remain on guard as Hurricane Lester approaches the state.
Interim Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Ed Teixeira said there have been no reports yet of significant damage from Madeline, which dumped as much as eight inches of rain on parts of the island in the 24 hours ending at 11 am today.
Teixeira said all critical infrastructure including roads and electrical service was restored by this morning. Madeline knocked out power to thousands of residents Wednesday, but Hawaii Electric Light Co. had restored service to all about two dozen residents by Thursday morning.
Damage assessment crews were investigating a report of flooding in the Puna subdivision of Mountain View, where Madeline deposited 2.45 inches of rain, and were also inspecting neighborhoods in Kapoho where the storm surge flooded roads and cut off homes.
The damage assessment crews will report back later today and “we’ll just analyze what we’ve got, and if people need help, make sure that somebody’s helping them,” Teixeira said.
Rainfall from Madeline totaled more than eight inches at Saddle Quarry; six inches in Glenwood in Puna; and more than five inches in the Hilo communities of Piihonua and Waiakea Uka in the 24 hours ending at 11 a.m.
County officials said they received isolated reports of a downed tree that damaged a home in the Puna subdivision of Leilani Estates, but found no serious damage to public parks or other facilities.
State and county offices reopened today, county bus service was restored and the county closed its emergency shelters at 6 a.m. today after Madeline had passed.
County emergency workers this afternoon will refocus their planning efforts on Hurricane Lester, which is projected to pass north of Hawaii County early Saturday morning on a course that may pose a threat to much of the state.
Hawaii and Maui Counties remain in hurricane watch status today, which means hurricane force winds are possible in the watch area in the next 48 hours. Lester is packing sustained winds of 120 mph with stronger gusts.
The track that Lester is projected to follow north of the Big Island “is tight, it’s close,” Teixeira said. “Definitely we’re going to get from Lester high surf, definitely we’re going to get a lot of rain, but it’s the wind that I’m concerned about, and how much of it we’re going to get.”
If the National Weather Service models are perfectly accurate, “we should see no destructive winds, knock on wood, other than winds that may as it goes up Hamakua maybe some gusts” that would be above 39 mph, he said.
However, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center warned that “it would take only a small leftward shift in the track to directly and profoundly affect the state, and watches could be expanded to other islands later today or tonight. This possibility must be considered when making preparations over the next couple of days.”
Lester has been gradually weakening, with the forecast putting Lester at its closest point to the Big Island at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, Teixeira said.